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In past historical articles I have featured members from the LAFD who have accom- plished great things and were admired by all - like Fire Chief Ralph J. Scott and Captain Lane Kemper. This month’s story is about Captain Warner Lawrence – a legend in harbor firefight- ing and long- time skipper of Old Fireboat 2. There are so many people who have learned so much from Captain Lawrence. My Dad, Stan Borden, worked for him as an engineer on Boat 2 in 1950. He mentored my Dad and encour- aged him to study for captain, which he did and got the promotion. Bill Dahlquist, retired fireboat pilot,

remembers working for Captain Lawrence on the boat in 1954. Some of Bill’s recollections were that he was so knowledgeable and help- ful to the crew, but he could also be intimidat- ing with a stern look and his cigar. He knew every nut, bolt and rivet from stem to stern on the boat. Here are some of Bill’s one lin- ers about Cap. Lawrence: “He was well liked for his “filibuster” type line ups in the morning. He had memorable red rag shakedowns of all crew members. He was known for his posterior chewings that would make a Spartan cry”. Bill wrote about his retirement dinner

in the May, 1976 Grapevine: “No piece of ap- paratus on the LAFD ever got more tender lov- ing care that this fire breathing smoke belcher got. (I mean the boat, not Cap.). Things seem a little different now at the old boathouse, maybe it’s the absence of cigar smoke in the air. In any case, it’s not quite the same and never will be.” Captain Lawrence was one of the

LAFD hard hat divers in the 1930’s when he was a fireman. Yes, the LAFD had hard hat div- ers up until World War II when the US Navy requested all of the LAFD diving gear for the war. He was a man with vision and capability. He could see a need, develop a design and build it. He designed and fabricated hose floats and floating monitors for underwharf firefighting, and after the Watts Riots of 1965, designed and fabricated fiberglass tops for open cab rigs. All the work was done at Boat 2’s quarters. When new Fireboat 2 was about to go

into service in 2003, the Department asked for input on who to name the new boat after. It was

a hands-down decision to name it “The Warner L. Lawrence.” After reading this article you can

see why this man was so well respected and admired.


February 1, 1948 to January 1, 1976 Born in Los Angeles, December 11, 1910

Appointed to the Los Angeles Fire Department October 7, 1935

Married to Louise Irene Furman 1935 (Married to Louise for 57 years)

Appointed to Auto Fireman Assigned to Engine Company 23

Appointed to Captain August 16, 1943 As- signed to FS 36 and FS 49

Assigned to Fire Boat No. 2 “A” Platoon Feb- ruary 11, 1948 (27 years)

Promoted to Captain II September July 1, 1971

Retired #1 in LAFD Seniority January 1, 1976 “10 Bells” San Pedro, CA October 4, 1992

Father of LAFD Captain Dean Lawrence, Re- tired

A New Life for Boat 2 – Captain Lawrence Saves the Day By Paul Ditzel, from “A CENTURY OF SERVCE”

December 6, 1975, without question, marked the supreme moment of satisfaction for Capt. Warner Lawrence, A-platoon skipper of Fireboat 2 for 28 of his more than 40 years as a member of the LAFD. That triumphal day was a long time in arriving. In 1968, Hill, as cost-conscious a

chief engineer as ever headed the LAFD, de- cided that Boat 2 was too expensive to oper- ate. It was, moreover, seldom used, especially as wooden wharves and waterfront structures were gradually being replaced by those of fire- resistant construction. Hill made the final deci- sion: Boat 2 was doomed to be sold for salvage. Hill, several chief officers, and others

met at Boat 2 for an afternoon meeting. After nearly four hours of outlining all the reasons

Fireman Warner Lawrence (in dive suit) and Fire Boat 2 Captain Bill Cody. Circa 1936.

Captain Lawrence in the white cap on the bow of Boat 2 circa 1950.

July 2015 • 53

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